Hanami, or "flower viewing," is the main event in Japan during this season, and the majority of the people living in (or visiting) Japan seems to be infatuated with the cherry blossoms and the act of Hanami! And what better way to enjoy the cherry blossoms than to have a nice "hanami bento" and some Japanese sake to accompany the act?
On March 27, Savory Japan held a cooking class to make cute "Hanami Bentos."
The lesson, instructed by Ms. Hiromi Sekioka, started off with learning how to cut various vegetables (never did I think that translating how to cut vegetables would be so difficult!!).
The first important factor was the way you stand. Many people are unaware that they stand leaning towards the right or the left, but in order to cut the vegetables evenly, it is important to position yourself so that you are standing straight against the cutting board.
The next factor was learning how to cut against and along the grain. Did you know that the texture and taste of the vegetables differ according to how the vegetables are cut? Interesting. My favorite was the cute sakura-shaped carrots. Not only did we cut them with a sakura-shaped cutter, but using a small knife, we delicately cut into the carrots so that they became beautifully decorated.
After all the carrots, daikon radishes, burdock roots, onions, etc. were cut, it was time to do the actual cooking.
The theme for the Hanami Bento was "Exploring Asia," with the dishes flavored Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean style. Being a cilantro lover myself, I was happy there was a lot of fresh cilantro thrown into the recipes!
There was also the salted cherry blossom flower that was used for the "onigiri" or "rice balls" that added a nice seasonal accent to the whole meal.
Making 5 dishes within the limited time frame was a challenge, but we did it!
After everything was made, we packed them neatly into the bento boxes.
The participants all seemed to be having a good time, where they concentrated on cutting the vegetables, talked with one another while busily switching back and forth cooking the various dishes, and of course, looked especially happy while they ate the dishes that they prepared.
This weekend will be the peak of cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
When having a hanami party, how about bringing a homemade hanami bento to enjoy with your friends under the cherry blossom trees?
(Text by Eiko Ishikawa)